A promise was made fringe players be afforded sufficient time to prove themselves.
Jimmy Barry-Murphy and his backroom team will sit down after next weekend’s Waterford Crystal decider to finalise their league panel, a task selector Seanie McGrath isn’t relishing to in light of recent performances.
Twenty-six players have stepped inside the whitewash over the past three weekends, the majority falling into the ‘fringe player’ bracket, the majority impressing. Saturday’s line-up featured only two of the team which started in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final and still Clare were brushed aside with minimum fuss. Ahead 2-13 to 0-7, Cork were home and hosed by the time referee Paul Foley sounded the interval whistle.
“It will be hard for us to pick a league panel because lads who were only kind of on the radar at the start of the year are now on the radar because of the last couple of weeks,” said McGrath.
“We made a conscious decision we wouldn’t cast lads aside after one game or two games, that we would give them their third game, their fourth game. There were fellas like Andy Walsh, who earlier in the year might have been struggling a bit. He gathered his confidence, got used to the pace of the game and you can see they are flourishing.
“The experienced lads did well here and then the others that came in, the likes of Dayne Lee, Alan Frahill-O’Connor and Paul Haughney all got great scores. That is very encouraging.”
Encouraging too was Cork’s first-half showing in Mallow, a productive 16-minute spell — in which the Rebels outscored the visitors 1-9 to 0-1 — providing the platform for victory. Full-forward Luke O’Farrell pounced for the opening major on 11 minutes, collecting an Andy Walsh pass before stepping back inside Clare full-back Cillian Duggan to pull the trigger.
O’Farrell bagged his second just shy of the break, flicking superbly a Darren McCarthy delivery to the net. Such was the Rebels supremacy in the opening exchanges that eight players etched their name onto the scoresheet – Brian Murray, Walsh (0-2), Peter Kelleher, Cian McCarthy (0-4, 0-2 frees, 0-1 ’65), Stephen Moylan (0-2), O’Farrell and Darren McCarthy all finding the target. Credit too for Patrick Collins at the other end, the Cork keeper denying Patrick Donnellan with a superb save on 18 minutes.
The Banner did rally at the change of ends, Colin Ryan, Bobby Duggan, Cathal O’Connell, Shane Golden and Brendan Bugler firing a string of points to narrow the deficit. The gap was twice reduced to six-points, but no closer would Cork allow their opponents – Luke O’Farrell, the contributor of 2-3, and Cian McCarthy closing out the win.
Clare selector Michael Browne said their performance was cause for concern. “We have two weeks to the league, so it is a bit of concern, but it better to find out now than in two weeks. We have a lot of work to do, a lot of catching up to do. In the first-half, we didn’t seem to be able to get to the pace of the game. We were creating chances but just weren’t taking them. We had nine wides in the first-half, and two goal chances that should have been put away. We had a lot of wides from scoreable positions and hit nine more in the second-half.”
Scorers for Cork: L O’Farrell (2-3); C McCarthy (0-7, 0-3 frees, 0-2 ’65’s); A Walsh, S Moylan (0-2 each); B O’Sullivan, B Murray, P Kelleher, D McCarthy, P Haughney, D Lee, A Frahill-O’Connor (0-1).
Scorers for Clare: C O’Connell (0-2 frees), B Duggan (0-4 each); Colin Ryan (0-1 free), B Bugler (0-3 each); P Donnellan (0-2); S Golden, D Keane (0-1 each).
CORK: P Collins; C O’Sullivan, D Cahalane, S O’Donoghue; B O’Sullivan, L McLoughlin, G O’Connor; B Murray, A Walsh; S Moylan, C McCarthy, B Lawton; P Kelleher, L O’Farrell, D McCarthy.
Subs: P Haughney for Murray (43 mins), D Lee for Kelleher (48), M Ellis for O’Connor (53), A Frahill-O’Connor for Lawton (58), W Kearney for O’Donoghue (62).
CLARE: P Kelly; D O’Donovan, C Duggan, S Morey; G O’Connell, Conor Ryan, C Cleary; Colin Ryan, B Bugler; P Donnellan, B Duggan, S Golden; C O’Connell, A Cunningham, D O’Halloran.
Subs: C Dillon for Conor Ryan (47 mins), P Flanagan for G O’Connell (49), J Conlon for O’Halloran (50), D Keane for Donnellan (52).
Referee: P Foley (Waterford).